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Gun Street Girl
The train chugged along at a steady pace, cutting slowly through the dry and starched midnight air. The Desert of endless dunes and eternal death dragged on for miles outside of the vehicle, surrounding and stigmatizing it and it’s journey. The night’s crescent moon shone down brightly upon the landscape, illuminating at that moment the outline of a pack of howling coyotes who ran with seemingly no destination in mind. The engineers at the front of the machine sweat profusely, as the heat of the coals they shoveled stung their skin. The conductor who oversaw this action walked in a square pattern around them, wiping his brow every minute or so. The few passengers there were sat three cars back, two of them snoring loudly, and one staring out the window at nothing in particular. This select person wore an eyepatch, a brown and ragged duster coat, and several scars. Her hair was short and rugged and her one eye was dulled and cloudy. Her right hand rested instinctively on the hilt of a worn old revolver as the train sped along towards the point where it could rest, although the girl would be having none of that luxury. She sat with intent in her mind as the sights and sounds of this particular world rushed past her. It was this that would keep her from sleep.
She had a job to do, after all. A self assigned task that would decide her fate and the fate of the man who had killed her, a course of action that would both alter and end the lives of many. Relaxing for even a second would end the meticulous plotting that now occupied her mind and kept her from the solace that madness offered, and she was not about to go insane. Hysteria might offer her respite, but it would leave her unfulfilled.
And she was sick of being unfulfilled.
She sighed, and craned her neck upward, moving her eyes away from the sheet of glass that barred her from the outside. Her surroundings were a blur tainted by black at that moment, as they had been for quite some time. She hazily recalled stepping onto the train at the sound a bell tower chiming, although she was unsure of the time it was signaling. She did however remember the soft and yet sharp air of dusk penetrating the moment, as her legs carried her aboard the then quiet and still metal contraption that would eventually spirit her to her destiny. Night then fell, and from that point on, she knew little aside from it’s icy grasp.
Although that too was nothing new.
She shut her eyes, hoping to escape, but found only more of the same old stuff. She saw green circles, blipping gloom, and just a tinge of memory. Upon viewing these items, fatigue bubbled up, and she was forced to rip her eyes open. Breathing heavily, she smacked herself on the head, wondering why she had been stupid enough to let herself slip. She then, almost suddenly, gritted her teeth, and tensed. Rage now surfaced, and memories of pain and anguish and aching bones came with it. This swiftly seized her, and dominated her. She was then as still as the dead and as lost as a wayward sailor stuck inside a sea of remembrance.
The train however paid her no heed and continued pedaling along its predetermined course, the night growing ever shorter as it did. The girl continued to sit, having been thrown into the disorienting world of her past life. These thoughts caused her to quake, and her boots shook along with her.
The train pulled into the station, on time and relieved. The engineers who had previously kept the transport in motion sat down, putting their shovels off to the side. They had finished working, and were awaiting commands that would either tell them to vacate or leave them in the same place they had been for several hours. They were anticipating these results eagerly. The conductor proceeded to face them, meeting their gazes. He removed the cap that suggested his status and ran his hand through his hair, absorbing many beads of sweat and an overwhelming tiredness. He sighed, feeling generous in that moment, and primed himself for the dismissal that was about to occur.
Meanwhile, the two other passengers began to disembark, standing in close proximity to each other as they did. They walked as if in a daze. Their eyes were glossed and faded, and their arms hung limply at their sides. Slowly, but surely, they shuffled off down the wide corridor between the seats, until they retreated from the girl’s sight. The girl remained seated. She too was dazed, but for a different reason.
For maybe a minute more, the girl remained, her posterior resting, tensed and primed, on the hard wood of the bench. After this time, she gulped, realizing that her mind wouldn’t be the thing that allowed her to leave. Her legs then shook their imaginary heads, and did the girl the small courtesy of obliging her heart’s desire. They lifted her, and left her ready for departure. She still, however, remained unflinching. Her feet, aggravated now, began to pull the rest of her body, and in nary but a few seconds, she found her eyes greeting the morning sun.
The air of the outside was dry and parched. She breathed this in, and moved her feet off of the the platform, until she stood upon the equally arid, rock filled, ground. She stood now, taking in the sights and sounds and smells of the locale.
She saw a quiet town, one only sporadically occupied. A gust of wind blew through the windows of a few small and decaying houses, and went out into a barely paved dirt pathway, stirring up a bit of dust in it’s wake. A few grackles stood around the corpse of some dead rodent. They pecked at it nervously, as if they were worried some larger predator was watching. Myriad people were scattered about the crammed, oddly-placed, and disheveled buildings. They either walked intently towards whatever target they fixed their sights on, or sat idly, fiddling with random objects and odd knick-knacks. One older woman sat in front of house, attempting to play with a large, scaly iguana that skittered madly around her, assumedly wanting nothing to do with the ragged and toothless old crone that wanted to caress their back. All these happenings played in tandem as a rancid odor protruded from nearly every corner of the place, while the only sounds that could be heard were the occasional queer fidgets and the distant sound of an aged harmonica.
The girl looked upon these events with indifference. She only acknowledged them out of a weird sense of obligation, and her reactions testified to this. As a group of maybe three engineers began to poke their faces out of the car designated for exit, worrying about what departure from their cradle might entail, the girl walked on, instantly knowing where she wanted to go. The engineers did not see her, instead only noting the intensity of the sun's gaze. They were frightened by it, and yet, they knew that they were going to face it. They shivered.
The girl made her way through the maze of homes, towards that thing which hummed a rickety tune. Focused intently on that particular item, her sight narrowed, and all that was around her became inconsequential. The only things that mattered were directly in front of her; a brown box, which she quickly avoided by veering left, a jagged stone sticking up out of the dirt, hopped over to prevent tripping, and a stray, old, ragged cat who ran quickly in front of the girl only to turn up it’s head and notice an approaching female with an intense gaze and retreat with it’s tail between it’s legs. These things were in her way but they were not as significant as that sound, which grew ever louder with each step the girl took. She came to an impasse and stopped, abruptly. Two paths were sprawling before her; one to her left, and one in front of her. She shut her eyes, searching for where fate desired her to go. She turned eastward, and began to walk once again, that tune continuing to sputter in the ever decreasing distance.
This road was for the most part empty. It was, however, a cramped space, where walls were only a foot apart. The girls body fit remarkably well (she was extraordinarily skinny), but even so, she could feel splintery wood grazing the edges of her shoulders. In keeping with her previous attitudes, she ignored the sensation and pressed on through the narrow walkway. She reached the exit of the path and shrugged off the nuisance, seeing a pair of doors in front of her. They were worn and flaky. They rested in the the middle of a large, wide doorway, and had no handle to turn. They were meant to be pushed open, although it appeared doing so might cause them to fall off of their hinges. The music crooned slowly behind them. It seemed that whomever was playing was taking time to push out their flat notes.
The girl stepped up to these panels. She put her hand on one of them, the one on the left, and pushed it ever so gently. It creaked sharply and buckled ominously. She stood for a moment more. Then, she adjusted the force she was applying, and swung the door open.
She stepped into a sparsely populated bar. A man blowing sharply into a rusty harmonica sat on a stool to her right. 2 tables sat alone, with 4 chairs encircling each, amounting to a grand total of 8 chairs. A bar tab with nine stools lining it resided about 2 feet away from the wall in front of her, which itself had row of after row of nondescript liquor on it. The tenth had been pulled off to the side by the scraggly old man, into a solitary and shadowy corner. The man did not see the girl, and proceeded in producing the cacophony. The bar tab had been deserted for the moment, and the only ones on the premises were the girl and the man.
And instantly, the girl knew she was in the right place.
The girl processed to the bar tab, pulled out a stool, and sat down. She placed her hands upon the flaky and chipped surface of the tab, and began to wait.
After about thirty minutes a man wearing an apron and tired eyes came walking down a set of squeaky stairs to the girls left. He was shorter and stocky, with a pot belly full of alcohol protruding ever so slightly out of his apron. His bald head shone brightly as sun from a nearby window doted upon it. Underneath the apron, he wore torn jeans and the laziness a comfortable routine is apt to instill. He saw the girl and sighed, strolling to the other side of the tab.
“What can I get ya’?” he asked lacadazially.
The girl remained silent for a moment. Then, quietly, as that shaky music played, she responded; “Nothing. Thank you.”
The man blinked, holding a dirty napkin and a bottle of whiskey in his hands.
“I think you misunderstood me,” he affirmed in an attempt to assert authority. “You’re a customer here. Customers typically pay for the services I provide.”
Calmly, she removed her hat, and placed it off to the side. Even she was unaware of the gestures purpose.
“Sir,” she stated peaceably, hoping to avoid a confrontation. “I ain’t a customer. I’m just a simple wanderer.”
“See, you’re still not gettin’ it,” he said in a manner almost akin to laughter.“ It doesn’t matter what you are out there, in the big, wide open desert. In my bar, you’re one of two things; you’re a thief or you’re a customer. Thieves usually get thrown out on their asses, with a few bruises for good measure. But customers, well, they can stay for as long as they please.”
Without speaking, the girl contemplated his ultimatum. She reached into her right side jacket pocket, and withdrew a pouch. She threw the brown sack down on the tab’s wood.
“Take what you will.”
For a moment, the man stared blankly at the burlap. He threw his rag to the floor and cautiously grabbed the bag. Putting his whiskey bottle beside the girl, he carefully began to untie a pair of rough strings that bound the opening of the thing. The strings fell limply on the cloth container, after he had finished, and the man looked quickly at the contents.
“Hm...” he acknowledged quizzically, “those are some deep pockets you got.”
From the depths of the bag the man removed two gold coins. He held them up to the sun shining through the window, and was entranced by the way it’s rays bounced off the crisp and clean element. He pocketed them after a bit, reaching once again for the bottle of whiskey.
“Alright, that should cover you for now,”he declared emphatically, while throwing the coins back to the girl. “What can I get ya’?”
The girl was shocked into silence.
“Just keep the money you have,” she reported matter of factly. “You already said it would suffice.”
The man sighed. “That’s not how it works…”
“You sure have a lot of rules, sir.”
“You don’t pay me to sit here, you pay me to serve you a drink,” the man expressed, his voice barely hiding aggravation. “The gettin’ to rest your keester is a welcome byproduct. Now. What would you like?”
The girl locked her lips and averted her eyes, pocketing the money. She shut her eyes and held her breath. The man opened his mouth, as if to speak, but then bit his lip, after he noticed an intensity in the girls action. The man was fond of argument, but serious conflict carried with it a few too many repercussions. At that moment, he chose to hold onto silence, as opposed to ending it, for the girl seemed as if she were off in some other world.
He knew from experience that delusional people were best left in their sorry state.
The girl turned towards the man and opened her eyes.
“Beer, if you’re capable,” she announced, her eyes gleaming with purpose. “That cloth looks awful lonely on the floor, by the way.”
“I’m afraid beer ain’t around right now,” he revealed while leaning downward and picking up the rag. “All we got is whiskey and a bit of water. That’s all anybody seems to need.”
The man shoved the rag roughly into the front of his apron. He had forgotten what he intended to use it for anyway. He then knelt and removed from under the tab a smudged glass, which he placed in front of the girl. He unscrewed the cap off the whiskey bottle and began to pour the amber drink.
“This should do you for now.”
He poured until the glass was 3 quarters of the way full, and then pulled his hand back, taking the bottle in the motion. He began to put the cap back on the bottle and turned away from the girl, as she stared at the liquid. She seemed unsure of what to do with it. She reached for it, took a quick sip, and then set it back down again.
Hours passed, a few people came and went, the man in corner continued to play his harmonica, the barb went about his daily routine, and the girl just stared at the drink, having barely touched the thing. The barb wanted to say something, but decided to leave well enough alone. This one was both odd and from the outside. That was a rarity. And while he did enjoy his quiet life with his complacent routine, every now and then a little novelty was welcome, as long as it didn’t disrupt the flow of things.
After another hour, the girl spoke.
“Who runs this place?’
“Uh…” the man expressed dazedly whilst attempting to clean a glass, “well...we don’t have a leader. At least, not in the typical sense.”
“There’s no...president or mayor or whatever. There’s no real government. There is, however, a guy who keeps the place on the map.”
“What’s that mean?”
“It means that,” the man explained, placing the glass behind him, having failed in his task, and picking up another one, “there’s a person, a man, at the top of the food chain. He sustains people by giving them work, and lives in the best looking place around. But he doesn’t control us, y’know, keep us in order. He just keeps us alive.”
“That’s interesting. And odd.”
“Yeah, well, sense is a virtue this place lost a long time ago.”
The girl’s hand instinctively went to her hat, as her face began to don detachment.
“Who is he?”
“I mean, aside from his status,” the girl inquired as the man held the glass in his hand. “Who is he?”
The man retreated for a moment, to search for an answer. After 30 seconds more he shook his head, clearly at a loss for words.
“I don’t know who he is,” he proclaimed. “I don’t even know why he’s here. He doesn’t seem like the type typically associated with...this kind of place. He just showed up one day, from the desert, with big bags full of money, and set up shop. And now, our town is ever so slightly more habitable. I dunno. I don’t ask questions. Things have been this way for a while.”
The girl was silent. She could see her reflection in her drink. She admired the poise with which she carried herself at that moment, and made certain to alter her face ever so slightly, to obtain the effect and result she desired. She knew entirely she was in the right place, and that the man the other man referred to was the man she had searched for all her life.
The man who had murdered her.
And then, without much warning, the girl grabbed her drink, and took a large, unhealthy swig. She slammed the glass back down on the table, wiping her lips, as the barb watched in befuddlement.
“Where might this man be?”
At that moment the bar doors swung open and hit the wall with the force of a hammer. The girl whirled around, while the man stood and rubbed his face, feeling all the more exhausted.
Three people stood in the doorway; 2 men and a woman, all clothed in black. Each of them bore hats upon their heads along with guns slung along their hips. They also possessed boredom in their manner, and a subsequent self-decided need to cause a ruckus for the sake of entertainment.
“Oh,” the barb murmured, “what a pleasant surprise.”
One of the men craned his neck to the side and continued to stand in the doorway, as the other two marched promptly towards one of the tables. The man quickly joined them, bidding the girl a passing glance, a sly smile, and a slight wave. He seemed a tad amused by her presence.
That one had a scraggly beard and brown eyes, with a chin that seemed as sharp as a dagger. A dirty bandanna was also draped around his neck.
He sat in front of the two, who rested side by side. They then placed their arms on the table and began to wait patiently. Their mouths didn't move, but their eyes darted from crevice to crevice and nuance to nuance every second or so. Eventually, all three of them saw the man with the harmonica, who had ceased his playing. The man’s eyes were empty and he was fiddling passively with his long white beard, as the harmonica rested pleasantly in his lap.
“Who’re they?” the girl requested with her hat upon her head. “You have to at least know who they are.”
The man smiled bitterly. “They’re mercenaries masquerading as bodyguards. The man hired ‘em for protection ‘cause they were ruthless and willing to work for any price.”
The 2 men and the women began to move towards the harmonica player, encircling him with their chairs.
“Who’s he, by the way?”
The barb shrugged. “Dunno. He’s been here for a while. Just came in one day and sat and played. When he first sat down the music was kinda’ annoying. He’s never been much good at it.”
The three stared at him for a bit. They were fascinated by the disheveled man in his own little world.
“The people of this place aren’t tended to talkin’. They just stare and play and do whatever, y’know? So as a result I don’t get to know much about ‘em, if there is even anything to actually know.”
One of the three began to talk, the man in the bandanna.
“Whatcha got there, friend?”
The girl picked up her drink and held it in her hand. The barb called out to the three in an effort to dissuade them.
“Hey! Can I get y’all anything?”
Without looking back the woman responded.
“We’re fine. Got all we need right here.”
The bartender shook his head exasperatedly. He placed the glass on the tab behind him and picked up another one.
“Have they been in here before?”
“Jesus, girl,” the barb professed, wiping half-mindedly away at the cup. “You’re of an inquisitive lot, ain’t ya?”
The girl swirled her drink and watched the liquid inside bob up and down. “I’ll keep on with the questions until you start givin’ me half-decent answers.”
The man paused and bit his tongue.
Can’t argue with that, now can I, he thought sullenly to himself.
“Naw, these people are new. But their types, their types are frequent.”
The three were silent for a moment more. One of them, a man with a rawhide necklace that had a tooth at the end of it, reached out to the musician.
“He’s got a lot of them in his house. They pop in from time to time. Not for a drink, they got a much better stock over there.”
The skinny man flinched and withdrew from his grasp, having been shocked out of his mind-Eden. The three laughed loudly.
‘Naw, they’re troublemakers, y’know? They get bored with the comfort of their confines, seeing as the thing impedes on their nature. That place is civilization, I guess.”
The women (who wore a stained white shirt underneath a black jacket) clapped along madly. She placed her hands in her lap and watched fixatedly as the man with the necklace began to jab at the musician, using jibes and quick movements to stir him into a frenzy.
“And out here there ain’t much of a reason to pretend. We don’t really have laws to hold people down. Guys and gals just do as they please.”
The man with the bandanna stood up. He smiled devilishly and crouched down. He moved slowly and cautiously around the musician as the one with the necklace proceeded to prod. Eventually, he wound up behind the flailing mass of bony features, and made himself ready. The musician was becoming panicked, and exhaled raspy and short breaths.
“They see this and want in on it. And so, they walk over, and cause mischief and mayhem. And for a moment, they’re entertained.”
The man in the bandanna pushed hard against the musician and he sprang up off his stool. He was shivering, and he grasped his arms tightly, kneeling down in front of the the three, who all stood up and moved closer to him.
“But that doesn’t last, cause they expend all we have to offer quickly. They realize that there ain’t much here, and they head back to their housing.”
The barb shook his head and placed the glass down on the tab. He went to his knees, and began to search for something that was hiding beneath the place where drinks rested.
“And then, they get bored and tired all over again. It’s a vicious cycle.”
The man tore his eyes from the scene and devoted them fully to his task. The girl angled her hat ever so slightly in order to hide her eyes.
“Hey,” she spoke coolly. “Where might y’all live?”
The three stopped what they were doing and a wind of nervous tension seeped into the room. The barb gritted his teeth and began to slowly remove his hands from where they fiddled. The man in the bandanna then turned to face the girl, as the others stood and stoically looked down at the musician. They nudged him on occasion, in an effort to rid themselves of anticipation.
“What’s it to ya, missus?” the man in the bandanna requested cheerily. He backed up his question with a smile, one full of hopeless posturing.
“Quite a bit, actually,” the girl declared honestly. She continued to hold the glass in her hand as the barb turned his back to the scene.
“Will you indulge my desires?”
The man in the bandanna stood silently for a moment. And then, he laughed.
“I do not know who you are missus, and I don’t know who you think you are. As such, I can’t impart unto you that information. Who knows? You could be dangerous. You could have malicious intent in your mind.”
“Very true,” the girl confirmed as she took a light sip from her glass. “But who’s to say I couldn’t find the place on my own? From what I hear, it’s rather large.”
“Is that a threat, missus?”
“It might be. But the point is that you should consider this an act of courtesy.”
The man c***ed his head to the right and began to slide his hand towards his hip. The other two looked up as the musician began to retreat back to his stool. The barb sat down behind the tab and plugged his ears.
“That so, missus?”
“Rightly,” she replied, placing the glass carefully on the tab. “If I wanted your boss dead now I’d have already killed him. Seems self-explanatory.”
The man’s hand rested carefully upon the hilt of a revolver whose silver gleamed in the sunlight. He slowly wrapped his hand around it.
“I ain’t no missus, mister. I’m not of that ilk, as you can plainly see.”
“Alright, lady. I’m not gonna ask you again. What is it you want with our residence?”
The musician had climbed back upon his stool, and was searching madly for his harmonica, which had fallen off of him in the commotion. The two just stared at the girl and the man, although they now also held their hands close to their guns. The bartender’s eyes were scrunched and his ears were still clogged. A gust of wind blew in from the outside and rustled the hair of the man ever so slightly.
“I don’t want much. Only to visit an old friend.”
The three withdrew their guns swiftly and pointed them at the girl, who had turned her head to the wall of bottles. The musician had found his harmonica and had begun to wail madly upon it, hoping to drown out the sounds of those who had disturbed his peace. The barb shook beneath his tab, out of fear. He was afraid of what the girl had brought.
“You sure you want this?” the girl inquired. Her tone was serious, and yet, oddly disinterested.
“It ain’t about what I want,” the man stated coldly. “What I want isn’t in the job description.”
The girl chuckled wryly. It was mainly an instinctive action, not one born out of genuine amusement.
“You’re stupid, you know that?”
All were silent except for the musician, who blew and blew with every ounce of his being. You could hear the panic in the discordant mess that rambled out of the metal.
“You are so very stupid. The life you’re livin’ and the stuff you’re doin’, it’s all extremely idiotic.”
“I know,” the girl disclosed assuredly as she turned to face those with the weapons. “I know it for a fact. A guy or gal who actually gave a crap about what they had wouldn’t be pointin’ guns at another, now would they?”
The man and his posse were quiet. The barb had turned from his cover and was beginning to raise his head above it, ever so slowly.
“Naw, they would be out doin’ something worthwhile, somethin’ fulfilling. They wouldn’t be impeding upon the livelihoods of others cause a’ some sorta ennui. They would be out havin’ a ball. But, you can’t do that, cause you're stupid. Stupid people don’t know what to treasure.”
The girl raised her fists to her chest and cracked them. The sound rang out across the entire space and even overcame the shrill noise that had previously dominated the scene. The three prepared themselves, as the barb gazed upon all with curiosity.
“And stupid people ain’t human.”
The man with the bandanna bared his teeth and fired off a shot aimed at nothing in particular, as a warning. The bullet whizzed past the girls arm and implanted itself in the stairwell behind her. The girl tilted her hat even further downward and almost her entire face was masked.
The man was shivering now. He felt enraged. Who was this girl, this vixen, who dared to judge him? He knew exactly who he was, and wasn’t about to let some girl with an agenda step in the way and upend that. He was who he wanted himself to be, after all.
And at this point, he was sick to death of her naysaying.
The man shifted his gun over slightly. He could see the ripped and frayed edges of her hat in his ironsights. He held the gun in this position. But, before anything else could happen, the girl disappeared.
She had ducked and rolled. The man instinctively fired off his gun, even though he knew she was nowhere to be seen, and his compatriots did the same. The bullets flew through the air and made contact with walls and wood and even an empty glass, but the girl was unsacthed, for she was now underneath the man with the cloth around his neck. She lunged upwards, with a fist above her head, and made contact with his outstretched arm, which snapped and twisted itself. She could feel the sensation of bones grinding past each other as the arm moved. The man cried out in a mixture of shock and pain.
The gun fell from his hand and into the open air. His companions tensed and were suddenly unsure of what to do. The girl was the threat to be neutralized at all costs, but their friend was in her way. And, even though they worked for the whims of another, they found that some of their philosophies were still hallowed and inalienable. In other words, they were at a moral crossroads.
This gave the girl both time and opportunity. She snatched the gun as it twirled through the dry air, and as she did, she rose. She met the man at his height, and seeing as he had yet to recover from the wounds she inflicted, he was open. The girl hit him on the head with the dull side of the newly acquired gun, and drew her own revolver in the process. The man shouted loudly and then went limp, falling to the ground.
Before the other two had even a modecom of time to react they found themselves staring down the barrels of two disproportionate pistols. One of them swore while the other used their eyes to convey a fiery rage.
The girl held onto this moment, allowing those whose lives were in her hands to fully realize their predicament and weigh their options. The barb was engaged immensely in this sequence while the musician still attempted to ignore all that was around him.
“I have a request to make,” the girl declared, lining her voice with detachment.
The woman with the white shirt grimaced and spat in the girl’s general direction. The girl’s reaction was not seen, for her hat covered her face, although she could see her surroundings through the things tattered status. She could perceive their anger, but she chose not to acknowledge it.
“Tell your boss that an old freind’ll be dropping by tomorrow. That too difficult?”
The two stood and moped. The man with the rawhide necklace frowned and knelt to meet his partner, who was unconscious and sprawled upon the floor. He grabbed his arm. He tried to stand, with the arm draped across his back, and came crashing down. He looked up towards the woman, pleading for aid. The woman, in turn, allowed her brown eyes to move towards the girl.
The woman bent over and took the other arm. She placed it upon her shoulder and gave the man with the rawhide necklace three seconds. After that time they both held the man with the bandanna and quickly walked out of the bar.
The girl looked towards the barb, who was standing and marveling at the damage that had been inflicted upon his homestead. He shook his head drearily again and again and again.
The barb looked up at the girl. His eyes held no displeasure, only simple, childlike awe.
“Might I stay the night? There don’t appear to be many inns around here.”
The barb was silent. The girl was silent. Even the wind no longer blew. The only noise was that song; the song of one desperate to reclaim what they once had.
Mr. Ralph Walden was a middle aged man who lived in a white, granite mansion on the outskirts of town. The house’s hue was its life, for in the desert sun, it gleamed and sparkled, as long as it was well kept. Every month or so servants were forced to come outside and scrub the walls with water and a shiny substance to remove dirt and sand that had been blown onto the thing by wind and passers by. This made it noteworthy, and it also signified the status and power of its owner. Plants of varying types were perched on its windowsills. These too required constant maintenance, for the heat sapped their life quickly. The servants would open the windows every day and sprinkle water onto them slap-dashedly. They would then slam them shut and move on to the next.
Naturally, plants died and were replaced frequently, although importing them was another arduous and lengthened process.
But Mr. Walden paid no heed to these happenings, for he was allowed to. He was the one who had conceived of such a place existing. He had put forth the money to make it a reality, money which he literally sweat and bled for. And he had discovered this place, this town on the outer end of nowhere. He commissioned this towns denizens as a labor force and eventual servant surplus. He gave them shelter and food and most importantly water and clean clothes. He looked after them, for he was a charitable man. And, because of this, he deemed himself absolved and free to do as he wished, in spite of what those who kept the building alive were doing. It was ignorance, but it was also, in his eyes, deserved bliss, the culmination of years of hard work.
His office was on the top floor of the 2 story building. He had intentionally placed it in the back, to both deter and prevent incursion, save for those allowed. He was paranoid, although he would not openly admit to this. He prefered to view himself as altruistic and kind, not neurotic, even though he hadn’t been outside of his house in four years. In fact, he believed this entire venture to be founded upon goodwill and a desire to help others. It was easier for him this way, for if he were to know the truth of the matter, he might cease living. Such was his nature.
But still, where this fear stemmed from, no one could say, although his staff had spread rumors and speculated. Some believed that he had mob ties, while others simply called him greedy and fearful of theft. Claims such as these would burn brightly for a moment, and then cease and die, as was their nature. Their progenitors, after the fact, would sigh and head back to work.
The cycle continued and perpetuated itself, over and over again. But Mr. Walden cared not, for he was satiated in his office away from everything. Every day he would sit at a smooth oaken desk with a book to his left and a glass full of liquor to his right as the great orb of brutal incandescence gave copious amounts of its light to the room. His drink would be sipped daintily and casually while the book was only read on occasion, in those moments of panic where preoccupation was a required evil. For most of the day his mind was blank and his eyes were vacant. His fingers tapped methodically on the lumber of his table, producing a slow tune that meant something to only him. And he would stare at a picture by the door, a very well done and detailed portrait of himself, which was also yet another reminder of how far he had come.
And these were his days. His nights were comprised of an early retirement followed by a fitful rest full of nightmares and other such visions. He would always awaken with a start. and then, he would get dressed, pour himself a drink, grab a book from a shelf beside the large, ornamented bed frame on which he slept (what the text was mattered not) and he would sit and clear his mind and stare.
And this was his life.
The only person who ever entered this area was the servant Sebastian, who came in exactly three times a day to bring Mr. Walden his three meals. Sebastian was lanky and aged, with long stick like arms and a monocle that rested atop his right eye. He wore a black apron with white frills around it and an almost immortal condescending smirk that proposed for one to know their place, for he was the person who Mr. Walden had brought with him from his old life. He knew this man better than he knew himself, and in many ways, he was the head of the house. He was the one who had hired the mercenaries for protection to ease his master’s stomach aches when he had begun to complain. He stalked the halls of the kitchens every day, making certain that all the food produced was as Mr. Walden needed it. He knew what made him especially upset, and what made him satisfied, for he had known him for years. And he wanted everyone who lived to serve Mr. Walden to know this, because Mr. Walden was not to be the one who gave them orders.
No. He was above that.
On this day sebastian was early, and there was no platter of food on his hand as he arrived. Mr. Walden continued to stare at his painting and tapped incessantly.
“Sir,” Sebastian coughed quietly.
Mr. Walden gave him a curt and short glance, before returning to his occupation.
“Sir,” Sebastian stated with a bit more force.
Mr. Walden paused. His fingers hung in stasis above the table and his eyes shifted quickly from Sebastian to the painting to the nearby wall.
Sebastian was silent. He swung his head around and popped his neck, as his hands moved to adjust his white puffy collar.
“There has been...an incident,” he confessed slowly.
Mr. Walden gulped and looked down. Little beads of sweat began to appear on his forehead.
“What sort of incident?” Mr. Walden requested, a small tremor lining his throat.
Sebastian shifted his foot and wrapped his fingers around each other. He remained calmed, composed, and above all else, friendly.
“Nearly an hour ago, a group of your bodyguards was attacked. By a woman.”
Mr. Walden gulped. He began to tap once again.
“This woman claimed to know you. She...insulted and assaulted one of our honored guests, and apparently threatened you.”
Mr. Walden’s mouth hung open, and his eyes were wide. The beat drummed upon the table was frantic and full of nervous energy.
“She said that she would be dropping by tomorrow. To ‘pay you a visit’.”
Mr. Walden froze. Sebastian let out a breath and turned his back, beginning to walk towards the door.
“Do not worry sir. We will make the necessary preparations…”
Mr. Walden remained silent. He too had turned his chair, and was now staring out the window behind his desk. He could see a once colorful bluebonnet which was wilted and parched and close to death.
“You should know, sir, that this information was extremely difficult to obtain. The one’s who encountered her apparently value their pride above their jobs.”
Sebastian stopped and placed his hand upon the door knob. He glanced back, casually.
“...I hope you appreciate what I had to to go through, sir. Your well being is paramount.”
Sebastian then looked away and swiftly turned the door handle. He thrust the door open and stepped outside it.
“Your dinner should be up in the next two hours, as per usual.”
Mr. Walden remained stationary. And then, he nodded a short and small nod, to give begrudging acknowledgment to all that had been admitted.
Sebastian stood in the hallway. He parted his hands and put them by his side. He turned his head towards his boss and sighed.
“Have a good night. Sir.”
Sebastian then, quietly, shut the door. It met its designation with a sharp click.
Mr. Walden sat. His mind was awash with the memories of dreams he had been subject to for years on end. They reverberated and screamed and gnashed their teeth in his head, causing him to tremble. Little tiny lumps rose up all over his body, and sweat covered every inch of his skin. There was one particular image that stood above all the others. It was that of a black silhouette, one with a smile that had jagged and worn teeth, holding a gun to his head. He recalled feeling the pressure of the barrel against his forehead, and the temperature of the thing, and the way it had stuck to him like a leech desperate to sap him of his life. This creature would always laugh, and then, they would pull the trigger. Mr. Walden would rise after this with a start and a scream. But he had no such release now, now that the shadow had begun to acquire a face.
And so, the event played, over and over again.
And it led him to a kind of dread he had only dreamed of. A sort of anticipation he had never felt before.
He swiveled his chair around and saw that half empty glass of spirit. He promptly grasped it and held it up to his eyes. The liquid swished dangerously in his hand, spilling a bit of it’s contents over the edge of its container. He felt the drink splash upon his hand and he saw it’s brown color contrasting wildly with his own pale skin. He stuck out his tongue and lapped up the mistake, and then put the cup to his lips. He took one large swig and pried himself free. The glass was now almost empty, and he hastily finished it off.
He slammed the item back down on the table and leapt out of his chair. He staggered back, his vision becoming blurred. His foot met the wall, and he lurched back and hit it with the whole of his weight. He grimaced, and slid down it, until he sat upon his wonderfully smooth wooden floor.
For many minutes stars danced in front of his eyes, pretty little frazzled holes in reality that were yet another representation of what he had been running from. However, their importance alluded him, because of the pain in his ankle was, for the moment, all. It faded, and the fear entered his mind once again. He began to breathe quickly, and left the spot, and he went to a cabinet that lay 10 feet away from his desk.
The cabinet was one more ornament, a beautiful and elegant piece of wood working that bent inward only to once again protrude outward at its center. Little lines were cut into its surface, creases that humanized and seemed to age it, although the cabinet was made along with the mansion. Behind this effort, there was release, release Mr. Walden wanted more than ever.
He grabbed the small, steel handle that was pasted on the woods left. He ripped it open, and on the interior, there lay two shelves. On the top shelf there were 6 bottles, drinks of different types. And on the bottom shelf, in a very orderly display, maybe 10 glasses were placed side by side. He hurriedly withdrew a single bottle, and then, he took a glass. He rushed back to the desk and plopped the two things down next to each other.
He looked upon them. They, like the room, glistened sharply in the light. They became yet another part of its mass. And he realized, that by themselves, the drink and the glass would not suffice.
So he went back to the cabinet, and he seized yet another bottle and two more glasses, which he raced back to the desk. He put these things down, and his heart beat furiously.
He gawked at all that was before him. And he deemed it decent enough, satisfactory.
At least, for the moment.
He picked up a bottle, and dispersed the whole of what it held between all three glasses. He threw the now empty container to the floor, and picked up the glass, and drank from it.
Mr. Walden drank until there was nothing left, as the people of the house flew madly from area to area, equipping themselves and their surroundings, arming themselves to fight what would soon arrive. Sebastian never returned to the room, and the food that was made was given to those who needed it. He knew what Mr. walden was doing, and what he was feeling, as he always did. And such emotions should always be left to die on their own, for Mr. Walden was a creature of impulse, and such things always die immediately. This was to to be preserved, for soon, all else was to be uprooted and cast off into oblivion.
And so, Sebastian aided all those who asked, and gave orders, for Mr. Walden needed it. And Sebastian needed it too, as did all who lived in the mansion stuck between nothingness.
The girl was alone. Her back was to a wall, and her eyes, focused and clear, were locked to a door in front of her. The only light in the room emanated from a lamp placed oddly at the foot of a cot, which itself was positioned at the edge of the space. Other than this, the room was barren, save for a rickety old chair also next to the bed.
Her knees were pressed against her chest, and she clenched her revolver tightly. Her breath was controlled and purposed, while her tremors were barely noticeable. She was as she craved, and all who looked upon her would see what she had carefully crafted.
All according to plan.
A rustling sound rang out from behind the door. The girl tensed, and leveled her gun. She could hear small grunts of discomfort and the clatter of metal. She thought of who this might be, and mulled it over. But, she pushed the notion from her mind, and remained primed for a scuffle.
The door swung open, and before anyone could enter, the girl pointed her weapon towards the possibility. The barb stepped forward, into the gun’s sight, his presence backed by an almost godlike amount of light. The picture represented a typical depiction of Christ.
The barb held two plates and a stern expression, one clearly referring to a questioning attitude. His gray mustache was wetted by a little bit of whiskey. The food on the platters was nondescript and without color, maybe beans scraped from the bottom of a cauldron. A tiny slice of bread had been put explicitly on the side of the thing, away from the mush.
The barb peered at the girl with tired, bored eyes. The allure of what she was capable of had clearly worn off.
“Is this truly warranted?” the bab inquired solemnly. He was still, and his hands rested assuredly underneath the plates.
The girl kept her gun’s barrel on the barb. But, she lowered it expeditiously, and threw it onto the floor.
“I apologize, sir,” she said slowly. “But I have to account for possible threats.”
The barb shook his head and stepped forward, out of the doorway. He hooked his right foot around the door and hurled it shut. It crashed loudly and roughly into it’s chosen position.
The barb moved toward the girl and reached her. He resided in front of her, and he looked down at her with an aloof expression and an anticipative air, like a child trying to be mature even though they knew presents would soon arrive. He handed her a plate with his left hand, and used the other to point towards her newly acquired gun.
“That thing’s more dangerous there than in your hand.”
The girl nodded and picked it up, out of obligation, while her opposing fingers gripped the plate, or at least attempted to. The plate was of a coarse substance, like lead, and it grinded and fought against her skin, wanting desperately to fall. She however made certain that it wouldn’t do so, through willpower alone, and the item teetered dangerously in her grasp.
The barb stepped up to the chair, and turned it to face the girl, who had planted her plate in her lap. He sat down, and did the same.
They stared at one another, at a loss for words. Time flitted casually by their side, and the world seemed at a standstill.
The girl coughed, and then spoke.
“Got any silverware?”
The barb blinked, and returned to his reality. Daydreaming was a hard won hobby of his, one required when living where he lived.
He shook his head. “Naw. Nobody needs the stuff.”
The girl smirked bitterly and pointed down at her tray.
“What do you expect me to do? Lap this s*** up? Like an...animal?”
“God gave you fingers for a reason. And besides, you ain’t of a civil sort. You said so yourself.”
The girl grimaced and grabbed some of the lumpy material. She shoved it into her mouth and chewed, her lips parting to reveal every messy detail of the process.
“Gotta have some standards.”
The barb chuckled, and shoved his hand into his food. His eyes moved to his plate, as did the girl’s, and for a while, they devoted themselves solely to consumption. But, in minutes, the mush was gone, and only residue remained. The girl sucked the brown stuff from her fingers, and her attention turned to the bread.
“Your opinion?” the barb requested.
“It’s not very good,” the girl admitted, reaching for the bread. “It’s cold. And it doesn’t really have much in the way of taste.”
The girl took a small bite out of the bread. Her face contorted strangely, and she gave a small grunt.
“Yeah. But it’ll do.”
The barb nodded, and finished up his meal. The girl’s gun clanked around as she sat up from the wall, yawning.
“You wanna sleep?”
“...Naw. It won’t do me much good.”
The barb stood up, and stepped to the girl once again. He bent over and picked up her plate, which was now at her side. He turned and threw the plates onto the cot so that they would be out of the way. He went back to his chair, and sat, and looked towards the girl, imploringly.
The girl’s eyes sized the barb up. She saw that his exhaustion had increased tenfold, with large, black as the pit bags that rested jarringly underneath his eyes, and an expression that conveyed a muted melancholy. She didn’t know where this stemmed from, but she was curious. She also had other questions aside from this, as she always did.
She was bored and tired, but for different reasons, reasons that would soon no longer exist. Her life would return to her when another met his end, she was sure of it.
But for the moment, preoccupation was an evil that needed to be brought in.
And so, she opened her mouth.
“Why did you let them stay?”
“The mercs,” she said. “You had a problem with my bein’ here without proper cause. And yet, here they were, not even givin’ you the time of day.”
The barb was silent. He ground his teeth together, hoping that this would give him true justification.
“I can’t stop ‘em. You know that. I couldn’t have stopped you either. They do as they please, as do you.”
“Then why did you try?”
“Cause you have to try,” he declared, hanging his head in an odd mixture of shame and submission. “You have to at least try, especially when something’s new. Who knows? Things might go another way. Things could be different.”
“But they weren't.”
“I’m aware.” His voice was cracked and without energy. Parched, maybe. “I’m aware.”
The girl inched closer to him. She sat at his feet, and looked up at him. Her eyes contained disgust and disappointment.
The barb laughed, and put his face in his hands. “You’re preachin’ to the choir.”
“I expected more from you, what with that impression.”
“Yeah, yeah. So do I. It’s just…”
“...It’s just that...y’know. You wake up, and you're ready to conquer the world, even though stuff’s holdin’ you back. You see that stuff, and you wanna be rid of it. And so, you start fightin’. And then, you finish the day, and all that, it’s gone. The ability to fight, and even the fightin’ itself. And so, you sit back,and you mope, and you let the world do whatever, cause it’s all you're capable of doing.”
The girl chuckled, and shook her head. She felt for the barb sympathy, in the way one might feel sorry for a euthanized dog, and an even deeper sort of disdain.
“You ain’t stupid. Naw. You’re just pitiable.”
“Well thanks. Ain’t you just a fine ray of sunshine?”
“The better man wouldn’t put up with what I’m sayin’, see. The better man would throw me from this place.”
“Yeah? Well the better man is dead. He’s been dead for a long time.”
“Then why do you see him???”
“...Gotta have some standards.”
The barb reared back and laughed loudly. His arms were thrust down to his side. The girl pursed her lips, and looked towards the cot.
“You’re a riot. You know that?”
“I’m glad you’re getting somethin’ out of me.”
The barb stood up. He looked down at the girl for a final time.
“You gonna kill him?”
“I don’t need it.”
“Of course. Just make sure to apologize to everyone who’s in your way.”
The girl clenched her teeth, and shut her eyes. This comment was like a sword in the side, and she threw her hat to the floor.
The barb took the plates from the cot and processed to the door.
“Good night, girl.”
The girl did not respond, and the barb exited. The girl’s head went to the floor, and she found little there but more pain and a few memories.
These things kept her preoccupied until the morning came
Dawn broke, and the town was still. Every denizen was resting in their homes, and even in the mansion, nary a stray fidget could be observed. But it was not the comfortable calm that solace invites. No. Instead, it was a stillness wrought by tension and tinged with nervousness.
Yesterday, promises had been made, oaths that shook the town to it’s very core. And so, word had flown with the wind, and everyone who held there life in some esteem was afeared.
That fear stemmed not from a threat to livelihood, all that certainly was at stake. It was for preservation of a different kind. It came from a place of comfort, a place of contentment, a place where worries and trepidations were nulled. But now, that place was eroded, and almost gone. The recent circumstances had done this. The bubble had been broken, and everything that had previously been avoided was seeping back in. People could only cling to the little left, the few things the still had, and hope that further interruptions would not arrive.
Everybody was partial to this, save three; the servant Sebastian, whose task superseded all else, the barb, who was too hungover to notice, and the girl, the instigator, whose mind was occupied by other things.
But they too were subject to the stillness for it had blanketed the town, like a storm cloud filled with lightning and thunder. No one could escape it, and no one could combat it. They were only able to sit or stand or lie and be encompassed by it.
And so, all was still, and all was silent. For the moment, at least.
The girl was the first to break this, however, as was her right. She had brought the storm into the town, after all. Therefore, she had more control over it than the bulk of the populace, and was able to move inside of it. She exercised her ability well, and with efficiency.
She cleaned her guns firstly, making sure that their every mechanism moved perfectly and did exactly as they were intended. After that, she sliced off her mop of hair, so that it wouldn’t be an impediment under any circumstances. Her recent baldness would of course be hidden by her hat, the item that would also prevent her identity from being noted. Such an occurrence would be cumbersome, and she needed to be free and unleaded. No adversity would tolerated. And everything resembling the thing would be shot.
All according to plan.
Her hair lay upon the floor in front of her, and she stared at it. Then she put her hat upon her head and stood up, her two contrasting revolvers hanging from her hands. She adjusted her eyepatch ever so slightly. It had been bothering her. She cracked her neck, hoping that her personal tension would lessen as a result of this. It didn’t.
So, she walked to the door, and as she did, she shoved her personal revolver into it’s holster. The other was still in her hand, for that was its only true home.
She struggled with the doors knob, only to eventually wrestle it open with a sharp push and a groan of disappointment. Her hand went to her pocket as she marched down the stairs. In it, she found everyone of her possessions, exactly as she desired. She entered the bar and saw the barb, sitting with his head in his hands. He rested at the place where his customers typically did little. A half empty bottle of whiskey was by his side, and even more empty canisters had been strewn about the locale. The girl sighed and stepped up to him.
He looked at her and saw yet another manifestation of his own incompetence. He laughed, and perhaps because of this, the girl threw her sack of coins to him. It landed on the tab behind him, and skittered away from from him, clearly slowed by the things jagged presence. His chortling ceased. He appeared both surprised and disconcerted.
“For the inconvenience. And for the mess,” the girl explained, gesturing to their surroundings. “Besides, I won’t be needin’ it any longer.”
The barbs eyes narrowed in a manner akin to a foxes, and he leaned forward, clearly a bit delerious.
“I don’t want it.”
“It ain’t about what you want.”
“...When is it ever…”
He took a swig from his bottle. The girl turned away from him. She sighed again, in an attempt to inform him of what he was missing, and what he had lost. In response, he took yet another drink.
For the girl this was excuse enough, and in a swift motion quicker than the blink of an eye, her hand gripped the entrance. But she stopped, for some reason. And she looked back.
“Use it to get yourself outta here. This place is killin’ you.”
The barb paused and felt the stillness creep into him once again, that fear of separation. But, oddly enough, he chuckled, and let it out.
“You got that right.”
The girl smiled. It was genuine smile, one holding life and a future. But she banished it and departed, leaving the barb alone in his den of drink and depression.
The girl stood in front of the mansion and abhorred it’s everything. She hated its pristine composure in the face of its environment. She loathed the way it shone and sparkled. And she detested its existence most of all, for from her vision, it was death.
And death had been with her for far too long.
She hurried to the houses doors, two giant wooden planks which were furnished with wood and the occasional stronger metal. A knocker bearing the head of a lion hung contentedly between the two. The girl gripped one of its handles, yet another gilded furnishing, and pushed upon it. It only moved slightly. It had been locked. The girl thrust it once again, harder this time, and it did the same, only with a bit more force in tow. She stepped back. She sized it up once more. And then, she ran into it, hurdling the whole of her weight onto the item which kept her from her goal.
The result was as expected and the girl staggered away, cursing the place and the man inside of it. As a last, desperate, and somewhat ironic measure, she sauntered up to the area and hit the knocker three times. Nothing came. She spat on the door and moved away, finding herself back where she had begun.
She moved her eyes from cranny to cranny, hoping to find some structure that would grant her invitation. She came across it in the form of a window, close to the door in level and latitude. A tinted window, admittedly, but a window nonetheless.
She strutted to it and hit it with the but of her stolen gun. The area onto which force was applied shattered and did so with a loud, sharp crash. Behind this recent hole there was wood, a wooden plank that had been above two other wooden planks. There was no space between these.
The girl snarled, and hit the window until all of its glass was beneath her feet. Panting, she noted the strength of the wood with a punch to it. She rolled her eyes, raised her gun, and shot the middle plank three times. Each bullet flew through cleanly and three holes were made, holes which revealed light.
The girl peered into one of these and saw a hallway, adorned in a red a carpeting and several candles. She moved her head back and stepped away. She kicked the middle plank. Nothing happened. She kicked it again and it made a snapping sound. She grinned devilishly. She had begun to weaken it.
She kicked it three more times. After that, she moved to it, once again, and noticed that it had begun to bend towards the inside of the mansion. She gripped it, and it was loose and on the verge of snapping.
She coaxed it towards destruction and it broke into two halves. These were stiff and left little room for the girl to crawl into the house. So she broke them further and there was then a small gap between the boards.
She grasped this newly formed hole and threw her head into it, lifting her body upwards. She inched in with ease, for she was spindly as a snake and equally as slippery, and soon found herself inside the mansion, where the end was now ever so slightly closer.
The girl nodded her head fiercely and was on her feet before she had time to breath. Excitement drowned out the rationale she had prized so heavily, and it was this that nearly murdered her for a second time.
In her frenzied bliss she neglected to consider where she was going and she traipsed down the hall towards the houses center. She arrived, and she found, lining the stairs and rafters and balconies, a good deal of people, servants and mercenaries alike, aiming rifles and all manner of artillery at her.
She regained her bearing just as maybe dozens of shots rang out like the clap of thunder, and she rushed back to where she had exited, the hall. She thrust her back to a wall, one that gave her cover and the ability to fire back, and unhitched her revolver. She drew three more bullets from her pocket and shoved them quickly into its now nude barrell, as she drew her personal gun. She shut her eyes and slammed her head into the wall, as both a means of punishment and final clarification. When her eyes were opened again the gunfire had ceased and confusion had seeped into the room. The soft murmur of people both afraid and uncertain began to crop up, and the girls eyes now burned with a fiery passion, one laced with intent, assurance, and above all else, composure.
The girl charged into the open arena, where the bulk of Waldens workforce stood before her and around, with tired bodies and minds. She took advantage of this and the element of surprise and unloaded her ammunition, all of it, with precision and grace that rivaled a god. 12 shots rang off from her revolvers, and in turn, twelve people lost their lives, and twelve veins were torn open. Each of them hit the floor at about the same time with a loud thump and the girl threw her own revolver to the floor, using the newly freed hand to reach into her pocket for a continued means of defense and her feet to commence a mad rush up the stairs.
The remaining staff barely had time to react, and only one, who stood before the girl as she sprinted up the stairs, was able to get off a shot. It hit the girl in the shoulder, but she did not cry out. Instead, when she reached him, she turned her gun into a club and threw him from stairs by way of the railing. As this mercenary dressed in black shouted, caught off guard, the rest recalled their duty, and took aim. The girl had already seen her opportunity and seized it, for her gun was loaded, and the blood that gushed from her shoulder was not worth considering. She fired six shots, and once again, 6 spirits retreated from their bodies.
The girl arrived at the top of the stairs as another shot rang out. This one missed her, but barely, and she whirled around madly, hoping to find where it came from. She eventually found the woman, the one who was seen at the bar with the stained shirt and the burning rage, quivering with a rifle at her feet. She was the only one still able to move. The rest were either dead or close to being dead.
The woman grimaced and, in a futile maneuver, spat at the girl. The saliva missed the girl but the meaning was still perceived.
“F*** you!” the woman shouted as she ran to the hallway, tears streaming down her cheeks.
The girl stared at her impassively and watched her retreat. She turned around and saw yet another hall, one rather plain in its decor. She moved briskly into it and walked through it, making note of a few doors and no people.
She turned to her left at a dead end and her eyes met the eyes of four, two mercenaries in black and two servants in white. Between them there was a gattling gun, and behind it was the man with the bandanna, whose smile was still full of fauscienouss.
The girl found cover back in the other hall and reloaded, the bullets of the machine gun pouring out beside her at an enthusiastic rate. She turned her head slightly and was able to count and observe. She saw 5 people, and two more at the end of the hall. She quickly mapped out a strategy in her mind and wasted no time in implementing it.
The first tenant of this required her to wait, for the man with the bandanna was giddy because of the circumstances. He had never seen such bloodshed before, and she also suspected that such a weapon was new to him. The bullets would keep coming until they were expended, for the power of the thing reverberated in his hands, and the thrill of the hunt barred his head from reason.
After this came to pass it was simple; she would run and fire off six shots (she had reloaded during the man’s happy time), dispatching each of the 6 with ease, and then allowing a kick to take care of the grinning idiot.
The plan went off mostly without a hitch, but the man was quick, and he grabbed the girls foot and threw her to the floor. He drew a revolver and stuck it in her face, breathing with the intensity of a starved monkey.
“Hello missus,” he said softly, his gasping choking his words.
The girl drew a knife from her belt and swung around, striking him in the achilles tendon. The man screamed an orangutans shrill shriek in turn and let go of his revolver. The girl snatched it from the air and used it to end him, his blood painting a grisly picture on the wall behind him.
She rose, panting heavily, her hat having fallen from her head. She stooped and placed it back where it belonged and she ran again, turning right this time, and there were only two to greet her. They both aimed and made their mark, and the girls cheek was cut and her thigh suddenly ached. She dropped her knife, but her revolver was raised and a shot was fired. One of the people, a woman in white, slumped beside a wall, but the other man in black fired again, for the girls gun was empty, as she had horrifyingly discovered.
He missed, and the girl dashed into him, throwing him through a window at the end of the corridor. He grabbed his rifle as he descended toward the desert ground, and she turned to the right, meeting the gaze of Sebastian, whose silver, painstakingly polished revolver was at the girls head.
She roared and moved her elbow to his wrist, and he dropped the gun. He staggered back and held his arm as if he were nursing a baby, looking at the girl like she had committed some heinous offense. The girls gun was at her side, for she knew that this one would not be in her way for long.
Sebastian gulped. “He isn’t worth this, is he?”
He reached down to his waist, were two holsters held only a single gun. He grabbed it and flipped it, pushing it to the girl.
“At least allow him to defend himself. He deserves that much.”
She looked upon it curiously for a moment, as if it were something she had never previously considered. But after this time she tore it from his hand, and bent down to pick up the other. The rifle went plummeting to the man who rested on the rocks.
Sebastian nodded and power walked past the girl, gesturing toward the final hallway.
“He’s at the end. Last room on the left.”
And so it was in this way that Sebastian disembarked from Mr. Walden’s ship, leaving everyone else to go down with it, the girl included. He had better things to do anyway.
The girl watched him leave, and then moved laboriously to her goal, her feet clomping loudly on the floor in the manner of a giant. Blood encrusted her body and her being, and she could feel its weight clinging to her skin, sapping her slowly of her abilities. She, as with all things, pushed this from her perceptions, for it was hindrance.
And she was free.
She reached the end, and saw the described door. She hit it once, violently. It was locked of course, and so she hit it again and again and again until it burst open, wood splinters flying into her. She stepped into the room saw something...odd.
The oddity was not in the fact Mr. Walden was cowering on his bed. That was expected. Predicted in detail, even. Nor did it lie in the rooms composition, for it was just as gaudy and wasteful as the rest of the mansion. No. Instead, it stemmed from the uncanny, the unforeseen factor which had sadly informed and created the situation.
Something was off, see, something was just not quite right. The girl couldn’t articulate what it was, and neither could Mr. Walden, who was just as puzzled by the girl.
But in their hidden heart, the muscle that lies tucked casually away inside all of us, they knew the truth of the matter as they knew the mundane. They were just unwilling to admit it, for the moment.
For you see, the girl knew that Mr. Walden was not man who she had sought for all these years. And Mr. Walden knew that the girl was not the shadow who had haunted his sleep.
But the the two proceeded as the script dictated, for it was all they could do.
And it was all they were capable of.
The girl grabbed Mr. Walden and threw him below her. He looked up at her with a shaking body and an empty mind. She bent to him and put the gun to his eyes.
“Come on,” she said sternly. “”Let’s finish this.”
The sun shone brightly upon the land. The mansion had finally well and truly lost its luster, now that its entire staff had ceased living. The girl and Mr. Ralph Walden stood in front of it, ten feet away from each other. They held guns in their hand, and Mr. Walden shook madly while the girl appeared as bored as ever, although her true status was quite the contrary. She had to keep up appearances though. The facade was all she had.
The girl arched her knees and winced, pain seeping up from her calf. She fought it and managed to contort herself in the way she wanted, whilst signaling for Mr. Walden to do the same. He nodded a short and small acknowledgement and did as was asked.
Their legs held them and they stared, hoping to find what they were looking for, as the wind knocked off the girls hat. She made no attempt to pick it up and it was carried away, her baldness leaving her naked. She bared her teeth, enraged and impatient.
“On the count of three,” she shouted. “Got it?”
“Yes,” Mr. Walden announced shakily.
A Tumbleweed rolled past them, blissfully ignorant of who they were.
A lizard skittered across a nearby dune and moved his head to the two. He had nothing better to do but watch, after all.
A rabbit hung by Mr. Walden’s feet. She shivered, for she had seen guns before.
Before the girl could finish Mr. Walden belched out the screech of the dying and fired a shot
into the girl’s chest. She gripped the area and coughed up a bit of blood, the stuff proceeding to dribble down her cheek.
“Dumbass,” she croaked.
The rabbit scampered away, clearly frightened by the two larger than life figures, while the lizard stuck his tongue out, having had his fill of human idiocy. As he darted off Mr. Walden too clutched his chest, as was due process. Such callousness and stupidity would not go unpunished.
And so the two fell to the desert and lay upon it. They stayed away from each other for a bit. Mr. Walden though crawled over to the girl, who was lying on her back, a clear blue sky hanging over her. Once he found her he sat up, pained, and looked at her imploringly, holding a decorated flask in his hand.
“What?” the girl asked curtly.
Mr. Walden unscrewed the cap from his bottle and took a quick swig. He wiped the residue from his lip, his barely tended stubble scratching his hand.
“Who are you?”
The girl shut her eyes, hoping to find solace in the darkness behind them.
“No one in particular. Why do you ask?”
Mr. Walden froze and exasperation, along with an extreme animosity, welled up in him. An unknown brown liquid dripped from the opening of his flask.
“You heard me,” the girl confided, her tone pompous. “I ain’t no one worth knowin’.”
“Then why were you here?”
The sun hung in stasis above them. Mr. Walden’s eyes were ablaze with years’ worth of anxieties and
“I came to kill you,” she disclosed, “and I succeeded.”
“Why? Why did you want me dead? I haven’t done anything to you.”
“Yeah, you did.”
She didn’t mean this, of course. The words were hollow and spoken without conviction. She didn’t believe a word of her personal narrative. Not anymore.
“You killed me.”
Mr. Walden might as well have been shot again, for the fire in him froze over. He became numb and positioned himself beside the girl.
“I haven’t known you before, I’m afraid. How does one kill someone they don’t know?”
Memories flooded back into the girl, for the dam in her mind had been toppled, and the water behind them was now freed. This soaked her and wetted her and made her waterlogged. She fell into it, her breath leaving her, and in it, she found what had brought her to this place.
“When I was a kid, I had this dog. It was a scrappy dog, I’ll admit, and she had a bite that would make even the most hardened man scream like a little girl.”
Mr. Walden listened intently to the tale, for he knew that it would be his last. In the story, the world around them seemed to stop, and there was time enough to last. He saw this and clung to it, hoping that he would never have to let go, regardless of where he might in the end wind up.
“But she had these eyes. These beautiful, green eyes. And whenever I saw them, my heart would just soar to the heavens.” The girl opened her eyes and saw the sun. She held her hand in front of it, in an attempt to blot it out. “Whenever I saw those eyes, well, everything else would fade. I needed that. I needed that desperately; cause aside from those eyes, my life wasn’t much to write home abo
Mr. Walden turned his head to the girl. She saw her eye patch trailing down the side of her face, choking it.
“There was a lotta pain in that life. A lotta physical and mental pain. But when she came runnin’ to me with those eyes in tow...that would be gone. And I could forget her and more importantly me. I could just stare into those eyes and swing her around in a circle, again and again and again.”
The girl grunted sharply and turned her head away from the sun, realizing that her hand couldn’t stop it.
“She wasn’t the best b**** in the world. But she loved me, and I loved her. And for those eyes, I would do anything. And so, we moved about our daily routine, takin’ comfort in each other when we could.”
“That didn’t last fer long, though. One day, I was walkin’ through the street with her at my side, and a carriage came barrelin’ on through. That vehicle, before I could even let out a yelp, hit my dog and crippled her, right there in the road.”
“I ran to her, and she was cryin’ and cryin’, as is typical. Blood was in her mouth and on her feet. I cradled her, and I looked into those eyes. But those eyes. They weren't beautiful no more. They were dyin’.”
Mr. Walden sat up and pursed his lips. He looked over the girl and saw tears streaming down her, although she was clearly not sobbing. He wondered if she was aware of this fact.
“And right then, in that moment, I died. ‘Cause there wasn’t a reason to live anymore.”
“The guys in the carriage, they didn’t even look back. They just sped along to wherever they was goin. I didn’t get a good look at their faces, but I swore that I would find ‘im, and that when I f
ound ‘im, there would be hell to pay. And when I found them, my life would return to me.”
She raised her head, looking Mr. Walden dead in the face.
“But here I am, just as dead as before. How come?”
Mr. Walden gulped. He too had been dead for a while, although his rut was more resultant of a suicide. He ran his hand through his mop of black hair.
“I dunno,” the girl disclosed, slamming her head into the ground. “You were around.”
“Were they ‘around’ too,” Mr. Walden stated solemnly, gesturing toward the mansion.
The girl broke into choked, childish wails, and her next few words were barely intelligible.
“I guess so. Yeah.”
As the girl balled, Mr. Walden stared away, off onto the horizon. He didn’t see much. Only shimmering sunlight and a land far off.
The girl glanced up and saw before her Mr. Walden’s flask, swinging above her nose.
“Take it. You need it more than I do.”
She snatched it and began to guzzle it greedily. She promptly consumed all it had to offer, and so, she threw it away. It brought little but hollowness. But that was required when the blood of dozens rested on your hands.
The two lay, side by side, until evening came. A pool of blood encircled them, although they cared little. The day had robbed them of everything, least of which was attachment.
“What now?” Mr. Walden inquired.
“I dunno,” the girl professed honestly. “I dunno.”
sun set and night fell and the two drifted off into a much needed slumber. The world around them moved quickly and covered up their bodies with wind and sand. The mansion behind them decayed and soon was nothing but rubble. The town in front of them collapsed, and became nothing but splinters and parched throats. But blood remained on everything, and held all from obscurity. For when there is blood, there is heartache and there is pain and there is a story. And stories do not die. They simply spiral through time, ignorant of it, and lodge themselves in the minds of people everywhere.
And this story is the worst kind of tale. The type that leaves no one contented and everyone involved without what they longed for.
But such is the way of things. And such was the fate of the girl and the town without time.